• Let's Review: MLP #43

    Aw, don't you hate it when this happens? 

    Well, okay, this doesn't happen in the comic. But we do have a case of good ponies going bad!

    Let's talk about the newest issue! Hail spoilers!

    As a child of the 80’s, I’m used to the idea of good and evil being treated like a light switch. Many times I witnessed heroes being flipped into villainy by mind control, alternate worlds, even cosmic storms. I’m not kidding. Compared to some of the plot lines from Transformers, Wheeled Warriors, and Silverhawks, pastel talking ponies are pretty tame. 

    As I got older, I found this idea oversimplified. This concept that we can arbitrarily flip between good and evil as if our actions neatly fall into either category. To quote Joseph Campbell, “Whatever you do is evil for somebody.” So when I heard that our heroines were going to take a walk on the dark side, I became wary.  

    Less wary about the artwork, which I think matches the story well. Compared to some earlier work, Tony Fleecs seems very comfortable drawing ponies and gets to add great flare. The villainous ponies in particular get some fun designs and poses which will help make this issue memorable. One curious note is his inclusion of background characters from his previous works. A small tribute to the past, but only in two panels. 

    Our story opens with the Mane Six and Spike returning from Abyssinia, having saved it from Ursas. Minor or Major? That’s up to our imagination. Either way, Abyssinia's residents chose not to press charges. Again, let your imagination flow.

    En route home, our heroines decide to take a dip in a spontaneously appearing hot spring. In this case, you probably shouldn’t use your imagination. 

    I know what you're thinking. "Where did he get that book?"

    Thus Ponyville’s troubles begin. Applejack starts squeezing every bit out of Ponyville with no concern for her friends or family. Twilight magically declares herself empress. Rainbow Dash unleashes sonic rainbooms over and over. Rarity is…

    Yes, I've made two "Hail Hydra" jokes so far. These things write themselves!

    Unlike the earlier shows I referenced, this change feels more organic. None of the Mane Six are running around cackling, “Mwa-ha-ha! Evil rules!”  Instead, their pride in their own abilities has been amplified while any empathy or love is repressed. This brings up the age-old question of what is “real”. More on that in a moment.

    With the Mane cast inconveniencing the town but not yet a full threat, the Crusaders and Spike show better awareness by reviewing the chain of events, recognizing the problem, and sending a distress message to Celestia. Who then shows why she’s the Princess of Delegating. 

    Okay, let’s be fair here. Luna is a good choice to recognize magical corruption and Celestia may be cautious about sending both Equestria’s leaders into an unknown situation. The concern lies in that this might be Celestia’s only role for this story. So many times she’s been held at the sidelines. At this point in the franchise I think many fans are hungry for her to step into the spotlight. 

    But this does give Luna a chance to shine. Especially as she reveals herself to Applejack. 

    Oh, for the ability to strike a metal chord whenever she does that!

    This is the part that comes with many “corrupted hero” story lines. Applejack’s dialogue is a steady stream of justifications. “I’m seeing things clearly.” “I’ve got clear focus on what’s really important.” “I’m smarter.” 

    Many people, both heroic and villainous, fictitious and real, say that the only way to see a person’s “true self” is to put them under duress. Strip away the cocoon of daily life or drop social norms' pretense. I get the idea that we might see other facets of a person’s identity when times are tough, but are we really so cynical that the worst aspects of a person are their “true” self? 

    I can imagine Twilight in this storyline denouncing the princesses she’s helped so many times. One might see this as an insight into a character’s darker side. Every person struggles with moments of selfishness, even with loved ones. Yet the feelings and beliefs that keep these thoughts in check are also a part of a character. Many view them as a constraint, but I see a character without a conscience or empathy as deficient.  

    I think Twilight and company are acting to fill a void. Take away a very real part of themselves and all that’s left is hollow. Of course Applejack is going to say she’s seeing things clearly. When all you can see is your own interests, things look simple. Yet why assume you’re seeing the whole truth? 

    So I guess the question is how this dark water’s spell has influenced the Mane Six. Are we seeing their more selfish impulses brought to light or is this an artificial persona? Luna’s attempt at a magical restoration fail, so she enlists the aid of the Crusaders to find Zecora. Given that I just talked about a conscience, it's only fair to point out the same flaw between siblings. 

    At the first part in a story arc, this comics does an effective job at setting the stakes. The Mane Six are inconveniences now, but it’s implied that their power is growing. The last two pages stress that greater threats loom.

    I’ve stated before that the comics can enjoy a larger cast because the doesn’t need to be a voice actor budget. This crisis is centered within Ponyville, yet the active cast seems to be limited to the show’s stars. My hope is that Ponyville’s residents won’t remain spectators; and that Celestia not just watch from the sidelines. 

    We’ll see how things develop next month!